Friday, November 28, 2008
Top Chef started off their Turkey Day themed episode with a rather tricky Quickfire challenge. Padma and guest judge Grant Achatz held a knife block pulling that gave the chefs a specific page number from the official TC cookbook. They had to recreate that recipe and give it a unique spin of their own.
However,midway thru the prep,Padma called for a stop and told everyone that they had to turn their ingredients into a soup.
Jamie,who did well with her minty corn soup for the last challenge,also whipped up another savory sensation. She was originally given a deconstructed falfel to make and was able to turn that into a chick pea with cilantro yogurt soup that Padma and Judge Grant really loved. I thought for sure that she was going to take the win and the immunity here.
Instead it was Leah,who won the QF for her white asparagus soup. She seemed to get some bonus points for having such a difficult veggie item to work with,not to mention that the dish she was first preparing was a tuna tartare. In addition to immunity,Leah was allowed to chose members to work with for one of the teams for the Elimination Challenge.
The big challenge was to cook Thanksgiving dinner for the Foo Fighters and their entourage(over sixty people). Each team was handed a list of preferred foods and told that some of the folks were of the vegan persuasion. The winning team would get to attend the Foo Fighters concert after the meal while the losers had to do the clean up,along with seeing which one of them gets sent home.
Leah's group called themselves Team Sexy Pants(why,I don't know and don't think I want to)and Radhika's vegan corn bread stuffing totally wowed the Foo Fighters. They were raving about how delicious it was to the judges,who agreed with them big time.
The leftover chefs were Team Cougar and thanks to Adriane,they made the better plate of turkey. Adriane really needed to do well after being on the Bottom Two twice in a row and her moist,tasty turkey with mushrooms redeemed her this week.
Alas,as is the way with Top Chef,it was the desserts that caused Team Cougar to be stuck with the clean-up. Jeff gave himself too many things to do and his spreading himself thin resulted in a pumpkin mousse and berry parfait that was bad enough to be renamed a "barfait" by one of the Foos.
Jeff also did the spoon bread stuffing that bombed,too,but the rest of his team praised for taking the reins with organizing and making sure things got done. That probably saved his bacon for this round,at least.
Danny was on the chopping block as well,for his underdone potatoes that he called "al dente." Dude,al dente is fine for pasta but not for spuds. He tried to blame the cooking equipment the team had to work with,toaster ovens and microwaves. Since both teams had the same set up,that excuse didn't fly.
Richard had to pack his knives and go due to his banana s'mores that left people wanting no more of them. They came out cold and the vanilla creme on top looked like spit,according to several of the diners.
Sorry to see you go,Richard. I suspect that Danny is going to be a big trouble maker soon,with his one fingered salute to Team Sexy Pants as they came back from the concert and his waiting room tiff with Jamie. Next week has the chef doing a food demo on the Today Show,so Danny better learn to behave himself right quick.
Blush had a double elimination this week,starting with their Max Challenge. The task was to give distinctive make up to two model based on two different decades. Sharazad tried for a 1920's look on one girl that failed on so many levels that it was curtains for her.
Farah won the challenge and received immunity,thanks to a sweet "Roller Girl" look to her 70s model. She was then teamed up with Mo for the Elimination Challenge,which was to do the make-up for a bridal party whose wedding was taking place the next day.
Todd and Nolan were paired together,with Todd being chosen by the bride to work on her face after she had seen both of the guys create looks for her bridesmaids(the other teams had to have that choice made the same way). He really gave her a flattering appearance that the judges felt not only made the bride beautiful on her special day but would look great in the photos years later. That made Todd the big winner for this round.
The last team was Maxi and Myke,with Myke being selected to work on the bride. She wanted a very vintage look that was heavy on the eyes and boy,did he give it to her! That may have made the bride happy,but she seriously looked like a raccoon eyed ringed bridezilla or a evil diva from a soap opera,take your pick.
So Myke is out,which pleased Maxi since he had no love for him at all. I suspect that Maxi's going to be around this show for quite awhile,more due to his theatrics than his actual talent with lipstick and concealer. The folks at The Soup will be thrilled about that:
Heroes went into a two part episode that had another eclipse affect our merry band of super powered beings,only this time rendering them powerless. A good reason for that may due to figuring out who the catalyst(the person with a special biological trigger in their blood)is and getting ahold of him or her.
Most of the characters believe that it's Claire(who thinks so herself). My theory is that it's Hiro who is the trigger man and with the ten year old mode that his brain is currently in,that ability is shut down for the moment. I wouldn't be surprised if once Hiro regains his memory,that everyone else's powers go back online in full force.
While I am glad to see that HRG is giving Claire some combat training(Finally! I am as sick and tired as Claire is of people constantly trying to keep her shielded from danger. At this point,she needs to be able to fight back)and that the Haitian is getting more of a back story,the best development for me is the wickedly twisted romantic relationship growing between Elle and Sylar.
Yes,Sylar is back on track and not a shock that he's coping well with the whole lack of powers deal. After all,he did some very nasty things last season without his abilities and now that he seems to have found the Bonnie to his Clyde,we may be in for a real wild ride:
IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA: Usually,I don't post full episodes of any show,but this season four finale of IASIP is too insanely funny not to share. The basic premise is the gang putting on a very bizarre musical that is a sly take on TV shows doing musical episodes. Here,for your entertaining pleasure,is The Nightman Cometh(loads of adult humor and very mature content-you have been warned):
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving,and while it's been pretty hard to feel grateful about things lately,there are a few glimmers of hope on the pop culture horizon that should perk up your spirits for the season. Not the most serious of concerns to be addressed,but relief from everyday worries is what entertainment is all about,folks.
So,here are a couple of happy highlights that you can keep in mind,as someone at your Turkey Day gathering brings up the old chestnut of "What are you thankful for?"
FANGIRLS WITH FUNNY BONES:The recent flare-ups between Harry Potter fans and Twilight fans(particularly over the book based musical movement that both fandoms have created) have not been helpful to either side and fortunately,a couple of young people not only have the good sense to realize this but are trying to bring the two groups together in a creatively humorous way.
Sarah Arent and Ashleigh Pirtle,in both of these videos,play a pair of die hard fan girls who are more alike in their genre love than they realize and decide to bring their fandom war to the streets with some very amusing results.
Alex Carpenter,who is a key focal point of the fan girl love/wrath here,is a real person,btw. He's a popular member of a wizard rock band,The Remus Lupins,who started off some of this HP vs. Twilight stuff by comparing Twilight to Hannah Montana. He seems to be atoning for that by making a guest appearance as himself in part two.
Kudos to you,ladies and everyone else involved in making these short satires,proving that even fantasy lovers can have a sense of humor about themselves:
SO IT BEGINS
THE ULTIMATE SHOWDOWN
MORE GOOD BOOK TO FILM ADAPTATIONS: Despite talk of a legal battle holding up the works,it looks as if The Watchmen movie will be available at a theater near you by March of 2009. Glad to see that happening,since every new trailer for it just makes the film appear to be that much more of an awesome,not to be missed visual event.
Other fun book to film translations to eagerly anticipate include Inkheart,starring
Brendan Frasier(who also narrated a couple of the audio editions of Cornelia Funke's trilogy)and Confessions of a Shopaholic,with Isla Fisher as the non-British leading lady here. While I do wish that they'd kept the Shopaholic setting in England(at least for the first movie),Sophie Kinsella's stylista gone wild story does have enough elasticity to survive being Americanized.
While we wait,here are the latest trailers for each one to whet your movie going appetite for more:
WHO WATCHES THE WATCHMEN? WE WILL!
THE ULTIMATE WAY TO BRING A BOOK TO LIFE
SHOP TIL YOU DROP OR GO INTO DEBT,WHICHEVER COMES FIRST
THE JOY OF KNOWING A FILM YOU WANT IS OUT ON DVD: Awhile ago,I was hoping to see the original version of The Women,whose recent remake dive bombed at the box office,but at the time it wasn't readily available on DVD.
Fortunately,the film did hit the DVD market about a month or two after the new one had disappeared. Maybe someone in the distribution department of the studio thought it might be a good idea for the earlier edition to distance itself from the remake. A good thought,indeed. Thanks to Netflix,I was able to rent that classic talk fest and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Lately,Victor/Victoria has been on my brain and yes,it's on DVD and on top of my Netflix queue as we speak. I haven't seen that movie in years and it appears to be time to revisit that baby. So,I'll see you all on Friday(with some TV turkey talk)and please feel free to enhance your Thanksgiving festivities with these tasty tidbits of Julie Andrews ala cart:
SHADY AND SAUCY DAME FROM SEVILLE
PLAY ME LE JAZZ HOT,BABY!
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
While waiting to see Twilight last week,I went browsing at the bookstore and spotted an interesting new paperback title that I couldn't resist buying and reading a little bit before the movie started.
The book is Harry,A History:The True Story Of A Boy Wizard,His Fans And Life Inside The Harry Potter Phenomenon By Melissa Anelli,who is the webmistress for The Leaky Cauldron,one of the major HP websites. She chronicles her life and times as a Potter fan and how she got involved with the online Harry Potter fandom.
Melissa became hooked on the Potter books while still in college and even when she finally finished with school and began her first job,kept her love for the books alive by not only reading them but sharing her thoughts and feelings about the characters with folks at various chat rooms and message boards. She also starting to send news items about the series to The Leaky Cauldron,who eventually invited her to join their team.
That lead Melissa down the road to a number of amazing opportunities,such as getting to attend a film preview of Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets,having some behind the scenes stories about the publishing world's take on Harry and his later developing movie incarnation,going on tour with the first big wizard rock band,Harry and The Potters and the ultimate fan joy,meeting J. K. Rowling herself.
The book talks about many of the different levels of the Harry Potter network,from fans to the promoters(amateur and professional)of the series and even to it's detractors,both within and without the HP circle. One of the enticing elements of Anelli's narrative is how she is keenly adept at adding more information about a subject that many Potter followers feel that they already know all there is to know about it.
For example,while Harry and The Potters did bring wizard rock out into the open,they were not the first ones to perform a HP based song. That honor goes to a band called The Switchblade Kittens(who are now known as The Weird Sisters) who wrote a Ginny Weasley tribute to Harry:
ODE TO HARRY
SAVE GINNY WEASLEY
It's not just the extra factiods that make this book such a compelling read;Melissa's narrative makes you feel as if she's one of your good friends and you share her highs and lows along side her.
Her re-telling of such tales as the group reading she and some of her fellow Potter people held for the fifth book(complete with a room set aside for mid reading rants to be videotaped and viewed later)and her impulsive decision to duck out of work and fly to England for the chance at meeting J.K. Rowling for the first time are charmingly told.
You almost feel as if you're ready to back her up during some potential troublesome moments,like the time Melissa had a face to face meeting with Laura Mallory,a strident anti-Harry Potter crusader,or when she went to her first HP convention conference,where she walked into a discussion about the romantic relationships between characters insisted on her declaring for one side right up front.
All in all,Harry,A History is as engaging a read as the Potter books themselves,shining a spotlight on the good,the funny and the off beat ways in which a shared fantasy can bring people from all walks of life together to create some real everyday magic of friendship and fun.
J.K. Rowling wrote a foreword for the book and many of her insights are included here,but the true heart of this story comes from the readers and followers of the Potter world online. Their devotion to the books and to their fellow fans is nicely portrayed and the passion they bring is more of a ringing endorsement than anything else I can say. This is a must-read for any Potter fan,as well as anyone who feels free to express their pop culture joy:
Monday, November 24, 2008
One of the hopefully big blockbuster movies for 2009 is another revamp of a familiar sci-fi series that holds an amazing level of devotion within it's fan base.
Yep,folks,we're getting a fancy new version of Star Trek,courtesy of J. J. Abrams,starring a fresh crop of actors and actresses as Captain James T. Kirk,Mr.Spock,Lt.Uhura, Mr. Sulu, Scotty, and Dr. Bones McCoy.
So far,only one member of the old school show that started it all will be included here,Leonard Nimoy,who is set to have a scene with his younger self played here by Zachary Quinto(Sylar Spock! Sorry,I just had to get that out of my system).
I bring up the original version of Star Trek for a reason;this new film version goes back to before the beginning of that show,which many people still view as a hallmark of science fiction television and others as an overrated/over hyped series that refuses to die,due to spawning a number of spin-off shows,each with their own major motion pictures attached.
Me,I grew up with the old school ST,my brother and I even had a few of those early Kirk and Spock dolls(too bad we didn't save those,could've made a pretty penny on Ebay there). While I enjoyed the first batch of ST,I never did get into any of the other series like ST:The Next Generation or Voyager. My intake of sci-fi is more of a come and go variety-my otherworldly tastes are more of the horror/fantasy/superhero genre.
Star Trek fans span quite a few generations and yes,I have been amused by some of the over the top antics from a few of the die hards,but you have to give those folks a hell of a lot of credit for being the first ones to openly express their fandom in public.
Trekkies/Trekkers,whatever you call them, took their love of the show out of the basement and from behind closed doors to make connections with others and share the positive messages about unity and creating a better world to live in that the show,in all of it's incarnations,gave to them.
The Trek fans paved the way for comic book followers,anime admirers and even Harry Potter and Twilight fans to make dressing up as your favorite characters and attending specially themed conventions and other related events as commonplace as family reunions and holiday parades. Even with the odd duck amongst the bunch,it's all good in the sci-fi fan hood:
So,will this new take on Trek please the already converted and bring in new members to boot? Hard to tell at this point,but the latest trailer does flesh out some of the plot line and character set-ups,plus looks sleekly modern yet still within the acceptable city limits of the core premise dreamed up by Gene Roddenberry.
As Entertainment Weekly pointed out in their latest issue,a more optimistic approach to the future may be welcome with the new changing of the guard in our government in the pop culture landscape for 2009.
I'm very willing to have some hope about what's to come,in both the real and the fictional realm and perhaps Star Trek will once again lead us into brave new worlds to help us to boldly go where no one has gone before. After all,they are old hands at this,even with fresh new faces at the helm:
Friday, November 21, 2008
I just got back from seeing Twilight and judging by the very contented teenage girls who were in the matinee audience with me,this movie should do extremely well at the box office this weekend and perhaps a few more to follow.
After the show was over,many of the young ladies who were leaving the theater were also making plans to see it again,a damn good sign that points towards financial success,in my opinion. Hell,I wouldn't be surprised if Twilight does good enough to help save the economy.
"Enough about what the kids thought-what was YOUR impression of the movie,Lady T?" Well,granted that I was predisposed to like Twilight right from the start,since I enjoyed the books and am a huge fan of vampire lore(I do have my limits and standards,tho,folks,trust me)-overall,the movie was a well made and entertaining adaptation that holds promise for the on screen follow-ups to come.
It was a wise move to go with lesser known actors and actresses in the cast,particularly for the leads. Part of the appeal of the books is being able to identify with Bella(the narrator for the first three titles)and Kristen Stewart makes that work just as well on film. She's not bland or generic in the part;in fact,Stewart showcases the core of emotional strength and passion that endears Bella to the reader.
Many people did have concerns about Rob Pattinson as Edward;rest assured,friends,that he is dead solid perfect in this role. Pattinson seems to naturally radiate exquisite tension without being becoming a caricature of romantic despair.
It helps the film a lot that he and Stewart clicked together so well in their scenes,bringing a believability and charm to their budding romance.In other hands,many of the moments between Edward and Bella could instantly devolve into overwrought bits of business ripe for the mocking. Fortunately,Twilight fans should be spared some of that media misery:
Director Catherine Hardwicke deserves plenty of props for giving a firm grounding and strong sense of place to this story and endowing the film with a good sense of reality that puts the supernatural elements into a nice perspective.
In even such small scenes as the awkward interactions Bella has with her father or when she's hanging out with her more human contemporaries,everything has a suitably understated tone of real life to it. You feel as if you're eavesdropping on actual family moments or teenagers just acting naturally together,even in such homogenized settings.
Also,credit is due to the screenwriter,Melissa Rosenberg,who keeps what she can from the book to make the action flow on film. Both she and Hardwicke manage to drop a few sly hints about things to come later on in the sequels without spoiling the plot for the uninitiated.
Speaking of the uninitiated, I suspect that a few of them might find the plot to be a bit on the slow side and will still wonder what all of the fuss is about. While capturing lightening in a bottle twice with the same story is difficult,especially in a visual medium,folks should try to keep in mind that this vampire story is not in the old school grand opera tradition or even a Anne Rice melodrama.
Rather,it's an All-American love story-boy meets girl,boy is afraid to connect with girl due to being from a completely different culture than her,girl persists in making things work despite their obstacles,boy gives in and they try to live happily ever after(don't panic,folks,this is non spoiler stuff). Seen in that light,Twilight is a great beginning to what I hope will be more of this series being successfully brought to the silver screen.
Many theaters are showing a new trailer for Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince with Twilight,a very sweet treat indeed. While it's much too soon to tell if Stephenie Meyer(who has a small cameo in the movie,look for it!)will have the same luck in quality control of her work as J.K. Rowling has with her HP movies,she does have a real good shot at keeping her hands on the reins for future films.
At any rate,it's very fitting that audiences get a Harry Potter preview before seeing Twilight. Both series have increased the power and influence of books and
are a lot of fun for younger and older fantasy fans. Share the joy,people!:
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Top Chef had a very New York Quickfire this week;with Donatella Apia as the guest judge,the chefs were asked to make a hot dog as good or better than any you'd find at a NYC stand. To up the ante,a hot cart vendor from Queens was also present,to give some compare and contrast.
Jill was the only one who used prepackaged franks in her dish,a spring roll,which made it quite a dud.
Stefan's "international" hot dog,with it's mix of Italian,Irish,and American ingredients didn't go over too well either. He thought it would be a big hit,but Donatella told him that she wouldn't go anywhere in the world for that dog-can you say "ouch"? I think Stefan can!
The QF winner was Radhika,who whipped up a kabob style dog that had tomato jam and pickled cucumbers. She received immunity for the Elimination Challenge,which for the chefs to create a three course menu at Judge Tom's signature restaurant,Kraft.
The folks who would be eating the food(and adding their opinions)were made up of people who tried out for this season of Top Chef but didn't make it. Not the most impartial group of taste testers,you might say!
An early crowd pleaser was Jamie's corn soup that had been accented with a touch of mint. I'm not a starchy soup fan myself(I prefer mine to take the form of a solid slice of bread at the meal)but it did look very appetizing and delighted the judges enough to put Jamie in the Top Three here.
Carla joined her with a tasty apple tart given a peach tea and apple cider reduction kick to it. While the judges would've liked a more stylish use of the cheddar cheese part of the plate,it was the flavor that won out.
Fabio took the big win,with his beef carpaccio dish. At first,he was on the defensive with the judges,thinking that they didn't like it but laughs and smiles broke out when they informed him that they considered his to be one of the best.
Not so happy was Hosea,who actually thought his avocado and chilled crab combo was guaranteed to do well. Turns out that the fish tasted tinny and somewhat off,with the avocado coming out slimy in a really bad way.
Ariane's lemon meringue martini with a cherry surprise at the bottom was so startling sweet that Padma wound up spitting out a mouthful in her napkin(from the look on her face,I seriously thought she was about to puke).
This is the second time that Ariane has been in the Bottom Three and it's only the second episode this season! She needs to step up her game right quick or she'll definitely be told to pack her knives and go next time.
Lucky for her,Jill was the one asked to leave due to her ostrich egg quiche that tasted like glue,according to Donatella. Jill committed the same culinary sin as Patrick did on the premiere,choosing an unfamiliar but fancy food item to work with.
Let this be a lesson to you,kids-taking risks is great,but if you're working within a limited time allotment,it's best to go with something you know how to cook right. Experimentation is fine if you have the time! Next week,we're getting a Thanksgiving challenge,with special dinner guests,The Foo Fighters(I kid you not). Sounds like fun.
On Blush,the first challenge was to create a full body make-up based on an animal. The make-up artists were divided into teams of two and Todd and Nolan won for their zebra inspired look,which was rather chic. They also added a elegant dark line to the model's jaw that framed her face very well.
Mo and Rainell tried to get a little out-of-the-box creative by giving their model a "monkey suit"(a tuxedo design). Unfortunately,the end results were a major mess that had sloppy edges and didn't suit the theme at all.
For the elimination round,everyone got to work on a photo shoot for a jewelry ad. They were asked to give their models a 1940s glamor/high fashion look,which confused some folks(you guys need to do your homework there!)and brought out the best in others. Farah did great guns this week,with her gal and took the win for this one.
Rainell had a serious case of stubbornness and wound up going home for it. The bright purple eye shadow she put on her model was godawful and the photographer told her early on that he hated it and that she should change the makeup.
Rainell,however,thought it would impress the judges and left the look as is. Since this challenge was about working well with others,along with make up skills,she lost out big time. Even as she was packing up her stuff,she kept saying that what she did was "memorable". Yes,it was but not in a good way,hon! Come to think of it,Jill said the same thing about her bad egg quiche;another lesson,people. Don't just try to make any old impression,try to make one that people will want to look back on!
I know that I've already written about True Blood this week,but I couldn't pass by the hilarious hijinks of Jessica,the newly made vampire turned by Bill as his punishment for staking Longshadow,courtesy of the Tribunal. Her enthusiasm for the undead phase of her existence is amusingly annoying,to say the least. Yet,she does earn bonus points for wanting to snuggle in Eric's lap(something I wouldn't mind doing myself),that is a sign of good taste.
It looks as if Eric will be taking charge of Jessica for now,but not without demanding a future favor of Bill that he may not want to return:
SOUTH PARK: This season's episodes have been pretty much hit or miss lately. However,they scored a home run with a riff on the recent vampire craze and yes,there is a reference to Twilight(it's not the main target of the parody-that honor goes to Hot Topic):
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays that doesn't force folks into buying gifts(at least not until the day after)or competing with the neighbors to see who can put the most lights on their house.
No,Turkey Day has it's own unique set of stressful delights such as putting up with those relatives you've purposely moved far away from,football games that seem to last forever and a New Year's day and the big challenge,the kitchen.
A major cause of holiday anxiety is heated up while preparing the meal,with every kind of cooking disaster imaginable happening to someone somewhere trapped between a ladle and a hot stove.
While there are hot lines you can call to help you with your turkey and Food Network shows that offer up cooking tips,I thought it might be a little more helpful to showcase a handful of crazed food prep moments in pop culture. Sort of a schadenfreude seasoning to give those culinary suggestions some extra funny flavor:
Let's begin with the bird-turkey,that is. While the gobbler can be gobbled up during both Thanksgiving and Christmas,some basic rules of thumb apply to either occasion.
For one,be sure to remove any bits of jewelry that you normally wear on your hands or wrists before you start stuffing the bird. Also,if you do wind up adding more than spicy,herbal breadcrumbs inside,do careful about how that unwanted item is retrieved. You can easily get in over your head there:
Of course,there's no law that says you have to serve turkey,but if you do choose a different piece of poultry as your main course,make sure that it is well cooked and presented in an easy to serve manner:
Side dishes,like salads and sauces,are very important components of a great holiday meal but tastes and ingredients vary. If you are not able to be the head chef this time around,mellow out about whatever your replacement decides to prepare or how the food is made. Nobody likes a backseat cook,it's worse than putting goat cheese in the fennel salad!:
Bread,whether it's the stuffing,rolls or just a couple of buttered slices,can taste even better when it is homemade. Be sure to read the recipe right,however,or you could literally wind up with more than you or your guests can chew:
Speaking of reading the recipe right,be extra careful when experimenting with new dishes that you plan to dazzle your friends and family with. Desserts are meant to be a pleasant ending to a meal,not a trial to swallow down a tasteless trifle or finding creative ways to get rid of a not-so-sweet disaster:
Finally,here's a tip for those of you invited to a holiday dinner who may be surprised by what ends up on your plate. In the spirit of the season, try to be a little understanding about any under cooking or by any non traditional menu items.
Instead of griping at your host about the lack of pumpkin pie,see if there's a way to find a tasty solution,or a back up dinner party you can attend together. Happy Eating to all and to all a good bite!:
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